The Phoenix Flyer

Suicide prevention for veterans: Lawmakers pursue a training program

By: - January 25, 2022 3:54 pm

A veterans’ ceremony in Monroe County, FL. Credit: Monroe County website

In 2019, 6,261 veterans nationwide died from suicides and 553 of those veterans died in Florida. Now, lawmakers are pursuing a way to prevent suicides, through legislation.

Senate Bill 1712 would require the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs to contract with an organization that will help prevent suicides. The plan would be a training pilot program to teach people about veteran suicide prevention, among other measures.

State Sen. Danny Burgess, representing parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties, is the sponsor of the bill. He is a former Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs executive director.

Suicide rates are highest among the youngest veterans, ages 18 to 29,  according to the bill analysis.

On Tuesday, in a Senate committee, lawmakers on the panel approved the legislation, though it will need to be approved by more committees and the full House and Senate.

The Veteran Suicide Prevention Training Pilot Program would identify indicators of risk for suicide. It would also provide emergency crisis referrals for veterans exhibiting symptoms of distress.

The veterans’ affairs department says that Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the country, at 1.5 million veterans, following California and Texas.

Many questions of what the program would really do since the number is so high and before this bill many programs have already been set in place. 

Sen. Audrey Gibson, representing part of Duval County, said that families should be part of the training for suicide prevention, in part because veterans may not realize that may have a crisis. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.